Sunday, 17 August 2014

Marriages Are Made in Heaven by W. Somerset Maugham - The Venture. An Annual of Art and Literature

The Venture. An Annual of Art and Literature. W. Somerset Maugham
The Venture. An Annual of Art and Literature
W. Somerset Maugham

Marriages Are Made in Heaven (The Venture. An Annual of Art and Literature. London: John Baillie’s, 1903)


Marriages Are Made in Heaven, W. Somerset Maugham’s first published play, a curtain-raiser, is relatively unknown except to familiar readers of his (his fans, that is). It was performed on 3 January 1902 at Schall und Rauch in Berlin in its German translation, done with the help of a friend according to Stott and by himself according to Calder, as Schiffbrüchig (“Shipwrecked”), produced by Max Reinhardt.

Besides being Maugham’s first published play, what adds colour to it is that its English version was first published in The Venture, an ambitious literary journal edited by the author himself with Laurence Housman, but we will go into that later.

Marriages Are Made in Heaven. A Play in One Act


The story itself is simple, but it contains Maugham’s budding sardonic humour. Jack Rayner and Mrs. Vivyan (Lottie) are about to get married, but before the fateful day Jack would like her to meet his good friend, Herbert Paton, who is going to be his best man the next day in the quiet ceremony.

Herbert, on the other hand, is not so enthusiastic to meet the bride, because he believes that he must, as an honest man, reveal the true nature of Mrs. Vivyan, whose last husband was not named Vivyan nor was she ever married, and save his friend from social doom.

Nevertheless, contrary to what he thinks, Jack is by no means so innocent. He knows all about Lottie’s past and how she comes by her twelve hundred a year. While Herbert is completely outraged by Jack’s lack of decency as a gentleman, Jack recounts a life full of disillusionment, how when one’s high hopes fade with youth, one is forced to accept one’s mediocrity and failures in the hard way.

He is able to lift his head up again thanks to Lottie’s understanding (because she sort of goes through the same herself) and acceptance. High-sounding morals and principles are of no use to him, but a life of tranquility, forgiveness, and relative comfort, devoid of struggles, self-imposing guilt and regrets.

It is a critique to self-righteous people like Herbert Paton, ready to judge his fellow beings according to his own standard and respectability established by social conventions. Jack has a chance to salvage his life, unlike the man in “The Bum,” published twenty-seven years later, because he has no pride.

Written at twenty-two (1896), Maugham has already seen through the empty promises of youth and society, and is able to laugh at its folly with good humour. It must have been a lesson costly learnt.

The Venture. An Annual of Art and Literature


A dear reader of mine drew my attention again to this interesting article in the Maugham collection. I had a look at it while I was at the early stages of collecting and it was definitely of a low priority.

Upon close examination, this is one of its kind, a period piece that would interest many collectors.

Maugham and Housman certainly edited well-known names. Here is the full content of the 1903 issue:
  • Beauty’s Mirror by John Masefield
  • The Philosophy of Islands by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Market Girl by Thomas Hardy
  • Open Sesame by Charles Marriott
  • To Any Householder by Mrs. Meynell
  • The Oracles by A.E. Housman
  • The Genius of Pope
  • Poor Little Mrs. Villiers by Netta Syrett
  • Blindness by John Masefield
  • The Merchant Knight by Richard Garnett
  • Earth’s Martyrs by Stephen Phillips
  • The Gem and Its Setting by Violet Hunt
  • Marriage in Two Moods by Francis Thompson
  • An Indian Road-Tale by S. Boulderson
  • Madame de Warens by Havelock Ellis
  • The Clue by Laurence Binyon
  • Richard Farquharson by May Bateman
  • Jill’s Cat by E. F. Benson
  • Proverbial Romances by Laurence Housman [interesting piece; not a surprise that Maugham was attracted to him, besides his homosexuality as Calder faintly suggests]
  • Marriages are Made in Heaven by W. Somerset Maugham [notice that he already uses the form of the name that he is going to settle for]
  • A Phial by John Gray
  • A Concert at Clifford’s Inn by John Todhunter

It contains a mixture of short stories, poems, plays, social commentaries, and philosophical ruminations.

The journal is made with care, beautifully decorated with woodcuts. A nice object to handle.

The Venture - Woodcuts Edited by W. Somerset Maugham border=
The Venture - Woodcuts
Edited by W. Somerset Maugham
Only two issues of The Venture saw the light of day. The second one was published in 1905. Beautiful things come with a price. Copies are available from US$100 upwards to US$1,600. Currently there is a copy of the 1903 issue available for bidding at Heritage Auctions (information provided by Mike).

For those who are only interested in reading the content or are not quite ready to spend the money yet, it is available at Internet Archive. If you want to read the play, it is now available free at MMCCL.

Marriages Are Made in Heaven is also collected in A Traveller in Romance.

The Venture at AbeBooks.com



14 comments :

  1. Hi. Glad you like it. The second issue (1905) I notice doesn't have Maugham or Houseman's name anywhere. It looks as if they maybe sold the magazine to a John Baillie who apparently owned an art gallery. I suppose he wanted it to showcase the art he had for sale at his gallery. Maybe Maugham and Houseman lost so much money on the 1903 edition (it IS so beautifully and I'll bet expensively printed) that they simply allowed this Baillie to take it over (his turn to lose money).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mike,
      It's good to know, because the information about the two issues is so scarce on the internet. Could it be that the magazine was published with the financial support of John Baillie? His name appears as the publisher, or what would be equivalent to the publisher in the 1903 issue.

      So their names don't appear at all in the 1905 issue? In all the books (at least those that I have checked) about Maugham they are listed as editors for both issues. I am very interested to know more about the 1905 issue before considering investing in it. Thanks!

      Delete
  2. Hi. I double-checked and in fact no one is credited as editor in the 1905 issue. There are advertisements in the back for Ballie Publishing, and for an art gallery carrying the works of some of the contributors. There is also an advert for the 1903 edition, though since it was supposed to be an "Annual" of Art and Literature the 1903 issue is listed as a 1904 issue - the contents are listed and in fact this "1904" issue is the same as the 1903 issue. In the advert Maugham and Houseman are listed, in large bold print, as editors of that issue. Also, in the1905 there's a poem called "Two Songs" by a James A. Joyce, could that be THE James Joyce? As I'm not a huge fan, I'm pretty ignorant of Joyce and the time-frame of his writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mike!

      Very interesting about masking the 1903 issue. I wonder what Maugham's involvement was in the 1905 issue. In the biographies that I have checked, his role as editor is mentioned in passing for the two issues. Pity that his letters are not easily accessible.

      Yes, it's THE James Joyce. In fact the 1905 is advertised mostly with Joyce as the "author" and thus, I presume, the high price. It would be immensely interesting to know if Maugham actually screened his contribution.

      Delete
  3. I think it may be one of those grey areas where we are not sure if the biographies are entirely accurate. Hey, if I'm ever in a jam I suppose I could sell my 1905 to a Joyce collector for a large profit.

    Oh, also don't waste your time checking out that contemporary novel I told you about, "Where Tigers Are At Home." While there were some interesting ideas, they weren't original and didn't warrant the 817 pages. The author is an Islamic/Jihad sympathizer who despises (so ignorantly) Americans. Definite thumbs down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, certainly a keeper, the 1905! I wonder if biographies of Housman would shed more light about the magazine. Well, when I have time....

      So disappointing about that book.

      Delete
  4. Hi. I listed my 1905 issue on ebay. You can find it by typing in "James Joyce The Venture 1905." It's $400 or best offer. That's $180 less than the cheapest one on ABE. Unfortunately for me I started reading it and I quite like it, but I can't come to a total conclusion about it yet. It has a couple of original prints of etchings - like the publisher handed the artists sheets of high quality paper (the quantity at which the edition would be printed) and they ran it through the hand-driven presses (which I had the pleasure of doing when I was in art school.) But I have to say, it really seems like Maugham had nothing to do with this issue. An indicator of that is one short piece of autobiography by a painter describing at BAILLIE's request what he goes through emotionally in the process of making a painting. I always thought Maugham and Houseman financed this "venture" but it appears to me that John Baillie was the money behind both issues with Maugham and Houseman helping him out with the first issue. I haven't read the first issue yet, but it's got to be better than the second; there is some not-so-good prose, and a poem entitled "Love" which I'm sure was the title of many American poems written by teen-age girls. The cover looks like something a high school student did for a class yearbook which belies the rather good artwork inside. I'm trying to get myself to not like it enough to sell it, because I need the money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sounds like a very interesting magazine, but regretfully I don't have the luxury to afford it at the moment. I am still intrigued by the "stated" Maugham involvement. I agree that Baillie appears to be the one who financed at least the first issue that I have looked at. Best of luck for the sale. It would be a very attractive offer for many Joyce fans.

      Delete
  5. If YOU or one of your readers makes an offer on ebay of at least $250, I'll accept it.

    About the Maugham involvement: There is a story in there by a Paul Creswick or Cheswick which I thought was a possible Maugham throw-away story under a pseudonym, because it had a Cousin Amy, it took place at a dinner party, and it was told with intelligence and expertise. But it turned out that this Paul Creswick/Cheswick was an actual author from the late 1800's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mike! This is a very good offer. I hope readers who are interested will take it. Best of luck.

      What is the name of that story by Paul Creswick? I gather that he wrote about Robin Hood?

      Delete
  6. It's called "A Game of Confidences."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi. I finally read "Marriages Are Made in Heaven." I really loved it. How was Maugham so precocious? Some of early writings are full of wisdom you wouldn't expect from one as young as he. "The Making of a Saint" is another example of this.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yes, it is truly amazing. Some critics are not happy because they don't see a maturation of personal philosophy in Maugham, perhaps it is simply because he was mature very early on.

    ReplyDelete